It's 1989 in New York City and Ava Fischer is a mess- she's broke, her teenage daughter is barely speaking to her, and her estranged mother's ashes have just arrived from Germany by mail. Things were never easy between Ava and her mother, Ilse. Throughout Ava's childhood in Germany, first in an orphanage after WWII and then in Ilse's care, too many unspoken secrets hovered between them- Who was Ava's father? Why won't her mother tell her anything about him? And what exactly was Ilse doing during the war? In a trove of unsent letters that arrive with Ilse's ashes, written to Ilse's childhood best friend, Renate, Ava begins to find her answers, sending her spiraling deep into the past of the mother she never truly knew.
It's 1933 in Berlin. Two young girls, Renate and Ilse, meet at school and become inseparable friends. Bonded by their mutual bookishness, Ilse is the confident mischief-maker to Renate's brainy klutz. But as the Nazi party tightens its grip on the city, the two girls find their friendship torn apart by the Nuremberg Laws. As Ilse is increasingly drawn in by the Hitler Youth movement and its promise of a Germany restored to greatness, Renate is forced to confront a family secret long since buried, and leaving one friend catastrophically betrayed by the other, with reverberations that will be felt for generations to come.
Story Locale-New York City and Berlin